Photo: LA Times
In a fascinating article discussing the need and possible approaches to reducing police shooting of civilians in the US, the New York Times noted that every year, for the past several, at least, police in the US have killed close to 1,000 civilians and wounded some 50,000 others.
Many of these incidents involve traffic stops – situations where the law allows cops great discretion in how they approach stopped vehicles and in the ways they interact with stopped motorists. Hardly surprisingly, the author suggests ways stops can be reduced in number – more than 62.9 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or 26% of the population, had one or more contacts with police during 2011 a sizable share of them in traffic stops, according to the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics – and a couple of ways ‘stop procedures’ can be modified to reduce risks to the stoppers and the stopped.
But as a frightening number of incidents over the past couple of years have demonstrated, there are many other ways should-be-simple, mutually safe police/civilian encounters can turn deadly.
While some of them represent incidents where cops have, or think they have, legitimate reasons to fear the person they shoot, more often than not they result from poor police training and, it must be said, extreme reactions by civilians to the mere presence of a police officer or some action of that officer that was not necessarily, in-and-of-itself, threatening.
Sadly, a high proportion of individuals who are shot by a police officer are young African Americans – or members of other non-Caucasian minorities. The problem is so severe in some areas that African American parents feel compelled to have what they call “the talk” with their young men – advising them how to avoid confrontations with law enforcement officers and, if they are confronted, how to avoid having the situation escalate.
Young Philandro Castile, while ‘driving while black,’ was stopped at least 49 times, all for minor offenses, in a 13-year period before, on the last pull-over, he was shot and killed.
That is a sad commentary on attitudes and occurrences in the US, which has the unenviable reputation of being the most violent society, overall, in the world.
The Times article is well worth a read, as are the others we’ve linked to.